Hamilton (6-8) hosts Ottawa (2-12) on Friday night tied with Toronto and Montreal atop the East Division. The Ticats, Argonauts and Alouettes also must consider that the B.C. Lions (8-7), currently fourth in the West, have a better record than the third-place Eastern squad and would cross over and assume the No. 3 playoff seed if that remained the case at the end of the regular season.
Toronto hosts Montreal at Rogers Centre on Saturday afternoon.
"Every game you play is a dangerous game and I don't buy that they (Redblacks) don't have anything to play for," Austin said Thursday. "In fact, being out of the playoffs would give them a little bit more of a reason to do more and maybe to live a little bit on the edge more."
Hamilton's first win of the season came against Ottawa — a 33-23 decision July 26 at McMaster University's Ron Joyce Stadium. Dan LeFevour started at quarterback for Hamilton as incumbent Zach Collaros was out with concussion-like symptoms.
Hamilton was 1-6 when Collaros returned to the lineup and he's led the squad to five wins in seven games. The Ticats are also 4-0 at new Tim Hortons Field.
However, Hamilton missed a glorious chance to take sole possession of first in the East last Friday when it relinquished a 17-point, third-quarter lead in Toronto, eventually dropping a heart-breaking 34-33 loss to the Argos. But defensive tackle Bryan Hall said that's all behind the Ticats now.
"I didn't sleep well at all (that night) and I'm sure a lot of guys didn't either," said Hall, adding the coaches have been doing a "great job of moving on."
But Austin bristled when asked if the loss was a reality check for the Ticats after four straight victories.
"This is not a complacent football team and we certainly weren't in a position last week to be complacent," he said. "We have fought hard.
"The players have fought hard and scratched and clawed their way back into this (playoff race) to give us an opportunity to make a stretch run and get in the playoffs and to hopefully perform well at that time."
Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris will make a second return to Hamilton. He spent two years with the Ticats, leading them to a Grey Cup appearance last year before being released after Collaros was signed as a free agent. Burris subsequently joined the Redblacks.
"We know Henry's strengths and weaknesses," said Austin. "He has more strengths than weaknesses, obviously.
"They're going to put together a plan that not only fits what he does well but also what they think will attack our defence, so, yes, we gameplan accordingly. But that being said, I've always maintained the belief that it's really your adjustments during the game that make the difference."
Ottawa is looking to rebound from a 41-3 road loss to B.C. on Saturday night.
"The most important (thing) for us I think going into this week is the fact the guys are embarrassed and I think we'll see more spark," Burris said. "We'll see more passion, more hunger."
Burris said the Redblacks are more concerned with finishing the year strong than playing the role of spoiler down the stretch.
"To win out here would be the perfect way to at least finish off with a good taste in our mouth and give us something to look forward to next year," he said.
Hamilton will dress two new international running backs after losing Mossis Madu to a shoulder injury against Toronto. Madu was replacing injured tailback C.J. Gable.
Delone Carter spent time in the NFL with Indianapolis and Jacksonville before signing with Hamilton on Oct. 7. He'll be joined in the backfield by rookie Sam Ojuri, who was signed in July and had been on the Ticats' practice roster.